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Considering Ethnic and Cultural Factors in Assessment and Diagnosis

Considering Ethnic and Cultural Factors in Assessment and Diagnosis

A danger of the diagnostic approach is the possible failure of counselors to consider ethnic and cultural factors in certain patterns of behavior. The DSM-5 emphasizes the importance of being aware of unintentional bias and keeping an open mind to the presence of distinctive ethnic and cultural patterns that could influence the diagnostic process. Unless cultural variables are considered, some clients may be subjected to erroneous diagnoses. Certain behaviors and personality styles may be labeled neurotic or deviant simply because they are not characteristic of the dominant culture. Counselors who work with diverse client populations may erroneously conclude that a client is repressed, inhibited, passive, and unmotivated, all of which are seen as undesirable by Western standards.

The DSM-5 is based on a medical model of mental illness that defines problems as residing with the individual rather than in society. It does not take into account the political, economic, social, and cultural factors in the lives of clients, which may play a significant role in the problems of clients. The DSM system tends to pathologize clients, perpetuating the oppression of clients from diverse groups (Remley & Herlihy, 2016). Barnett and Johnson (2015) suggest that practitioners give careful consideration before rendering a diagnosis and take into consideration the realities of discrimination, oppression, and racism in society and in the mental health disciplines.

Assessment and Diagnosis From Various Theoretical Perspectives The theory from which you operate influences your thinking about the use of a diagnostic framework in your therapeutic practice. Many practitioners who use the cognitive behavioral approaches and the medical model place heavy emphasis on the role of assessment as a prelude to the treatment process. The rationale is that specific therapy goals cannot be designed until a clear picture emerges of the client’s past and present functioning. In addition, progress, change, improvement, or success may be difficult to evaluate without an initial assessment. Counselors who base their practice on the relationship-oriented approaches tend to view the process of assessment and diagnosis as external to the immediacy of the client–counselor relationship, impeding their understanding of the subjective world of the client. As you will see in Chapter 12, feminist therapists contend that traditional diagnostic practices are often oppressive and that such practices are based on a White, malecentered, Western notion of mental health and mental illness. Both the feminist perspective and the postmodern approaches (Chapter 13) charge that these diagnoses ignore societal contexts. Therapists with a feminist, social constructionist, solution-focused, or narrative therapy orientation challenge many DSM-5 diagnoses. However, these practitioners do make assessments and draw conclusions about client problems and strengths. Regardless of the particular theory espoused by a therapist, both clinical and ethical issues are associated with the use of assessment procedures and possibly a diagnosis as part of a treatment plan

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